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Alfredsson optimistic after successful back surgery

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson underwent successful back surgery on Friday, but he says it's too soon yet to determine how he'll react once training camp arrives in September (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).

Daniel Alfredsson is "cautiously optimistic" that successful back surgery will have him good to go for a 16th season with the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators captain underwent a procedure last Friday to relieve the pressure on a nagging nerve in his back that caused him to miss the final two months of the 2010-11 campaign. While he's at least a month away from resuming off-season training, Alfredsson likes how he feels at the moment.

"The surgery went really well ... better than I thought it would," he said today following a press conference to introduce Paul MacLean as the Senators' new head coach. "Give it a few more weeks and we'll know exactly where I am. Right now, I'm stretching it a little bit and taking it easy. I haven't had a lot of pain at all since the surgery. I think when I start rehabbing it more and lifting a little bit of weights, I can compare it to the way it felt before. But so far, it’s been good."

Alfredsson, who hasn't seen game action since Feb. 7, had hoped to avoid surgery. But after an extended period of rehab didn't completely solve the issue, he met with doctors three weeks ago and decided "if I want to continue playing, I had to do something."

"So far, it's been great," he said. "I'm not going to say this is going to solve everything. I hope it does and that's my feeling, that it will if everything goes well. I guess I'm cautiously optimistic."

Alfredsson was also a keenly interested observer as he watched MacLean, a Detroit Red Wings assistant for the last six seasons, speak with the media about his first National Hockey League coaching job. The Senators captain believes MacLean will have a captive audience in the Ottawa dressing room right from the get go.

"With his experience, what he's been through, especially with the players he's been coaching while in Detroit, it's definitely going to add something to our team," said Alfredsson. "If you look at the way Detroit plays ... (they're) a good team that has a lot of skill and they’re a really good defensive team. They play with the puck as much as they can and I can see us do the same thing ... we’ll probably be a little bit more of a skating team than maybe the last few years.

"We'll be a pretty good group to coach. We want to go in the right direction and we'll be all ears."

MacLean, a former NHL player for 10 years — the majority of it with the Winnipeg Jets in the 1980s — knows there is only one direction that will satisfy his new charges. The Senators have missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons, with the latter failure resulting in the dismissal of head coach Cory Clouston and his staff.

"Every player in the league wants to succeed," he said. "They don't want to be bad, they don't want to miss the playoffs. They want to be successful. What I'm going to try to bring is some direction and leadership, and empower them to become better. If we try to get a little better every day, let's see where we are at the end of the year."

MacLean guesses his hiring should cause more than a little bit of a stir in his hometown of Antigonish, N.S. While he still has a great fondness for the area — he and his wife, Sharon, spend a good chunk of their off-season back in Nova Scotia — he had to move on to realize his biggest hockey dreams.

"I always tell my kids that Antigonish is a great place to be from," said MacLean. "But the last time I checked, they put an NHL team in Winnipeg, not Antigonish. So it's a pretty hard place to get a job (there) and do what I do. But growing up there was a great experience. The people there are fantastic — that place is going crazy today, I guarantee you that, and a lot of people there have got to change their (favourite) team."

First up on MacLean's to-do list: hiring a staff of assistant coaches.

Senators general manager Bryan Murray is leaving that decision to his new coach and both suggest there's no rushed timetable to get it done. "It's a priority, but we don't have to do it today or tomorrow," said MacLean. "As long as we get ourselves sorted out and organized ... we still have a couple of months, although I know time flies. It's a priority, but nothing we have to do today."

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